MEET THE INVENT FINALISTS: Graham Curry, Founder of HandiCaddie
Graham Curry, a caddie at Northern Ireland’s Castlerock Golf Club, is looking to digitize the process of how caddies are assigned to golfers, with his venture Handicaddie.
Graham explains the archaic nature of the system for booking caddies. “Over the past few years I have witnessed many inefficiencies at golf clubs. They complete administrative work by hand, not digitally. Golfers don’t get to choose their caddies. And caddies can’t set their schedule – it’s all arranged by phone.”
On Graham’s new website, caddies can create profiles of themselves, golfers can view their profiles, look at reviews of their work, and arrange rounds of golf. The platform will also eventually offer add-ons, giving golfers the ability to book drinks or food after their rounds.
When I first heard about Graham’s idea, I thought he was taking on the world of the super-rich – or just pro golfers. But it turns out that average golfers also hire caddies regularly.
“There are huge benefits to booking a caddie and gaining knowledge from them during your round of golf. At my club it costs £40 to book a caddie, and at Northern Ireland’s best club, arguably, Royal Portrush, it’s still only £55 for an elite caddie.”
Amongst other tidbits, caddies will advise golfers about where to hit their tee shots, what clubs to use, and general knowledge of the course. For golfers with a competitive spirit, it can improve their round considerably.
The ability to book caddies is especially important for golf tourism.
“Golf tourism is on the rise,” points out Graham. And this is a hugely important economic boost for Northern Ireland. The British Open, held in Portrush in July, was estimated to bring in 190,000 visitors to Northern Ireland alone.
Graham says, “Five million golf tourists play globally every year. Here in Northern Ireland, it’s estimated that 52 per cent of tourists are North American.”
Graham says he believes that 80 per cent of those North American golf tourists would book a caddie. Of those bookings, just less than a third book their caddie through a golf club directly – the rest (roughly 70 per cent) book through a golf tour operator.
While the website is still being built, Graham envisions a monetization strategy that will take a 10 per cent commission on every caddie booking.
Graham says that when he’s not on a golf course, he’s often found going for a run or listening to podcasts – which have been a great source of inspiration for his entrepreneurial drive.
“I always wanted to be an entrepreneur – but I wasn’t sure exactly what my business idea was. I met with Queen’s University’s Student Union’s Kat Maguire – and I had a lightbulb moment. I realised that I should to start a business based around the world that I inhabit – golf.”
He has since participated in Belfast’s Enterprise Academy programme and Queen’s Dragons Den programme, both of which have helped him get the initial stages of his business ready.
“For me, being an entrepreneur means putting myself out there and not being afraid to take a chance,” Graham explains. “I’d like to have the opportunity to impact a lot of people. I’m also willing to put in the hard work and the long hours that it will take.”
Graham has been “going to entrepreneur events from the age of 17 or 18,” he says. “One thing I learned was that if you can solve a problem, you’ve got a business.”
“I always ask myself: what problems affect me directly and what solutions can I provide?”
HandieCaddie is now a finalist in the Invent 2019 competition in the category ‘Creative Media and Consumer Internet’ sponsored by Big Motive. The Invent Final Awards night, sponsored by Bank of Ireland UK, will be held on Thursday 10thOctober. Tickets are available here.